Capstone Class Inspires Book

By Kayla Chun ’21

I wrote “Pete’s Journey Home” initially as a Girl Scouts Gold Award Project, to address a global issue that would have a lasting impact on the community. The children’s book, published in May, focuses on a determined plastic bottle’s journey from the trash to the place that should be home – the recycling bin.

My inspiration for the project came from several of my Punahou classmates and friends who were taking action to combat our current environmental crisis. As I began to learn more about climate issues beyond plastic pollution, I decided to write and illustrate a fun, engaging book to teach kids about the importance of recycling, and hopefully get them thinking about the wider impact that our plastics and
other waste have on the environment.

Creating this book, however, wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be. Although I had come up with the idea as a sophomore, it took me two years to complete. So many amazing people – teachers, mentors and classmates – offered me insight and ideas, and I ended up with more than 10 different possible drafts. I struggled with the balance of including both fact and fiction in relaying Pete’s journey.

I nearly abandoned the project until I started my senior capstone class, which is the one of the main reasons my book materialized. It was easily one of the most eye-opening classes I took at Punahou. For our final class project, we were challenged to consider how we could use our passions and skills to make a difference in the world.

One of the things that made the class so special was our teacher, Mr. (Yunus) Peer, who helped me develop Pete as a relatable character, and also explained that our final project should not only benefit others, but also broaden our understanding and education. “Do it for your own curiosity, interest and learning” he said, and that helped me zero in on what I wanted kids to get from my story – to want to learn more about environmental issues and to question issues surrounding them. From my own experiences, I know curiosity can take learning far beyond the classroom, and to start solving problems in the world that exist today and in the future.

I hope to initiate more projects going forward, not just on sustainability, but on other topics that are important to me, like inclusion. Hopefully, as I learn more about all these issues, I’ll be able to effectively advocate for them and inspire others to do the same.

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